I had to go and see somebody on business. Not a pleasure trip, just part of local people earning a living. The problem is, the person I went to see lives in the National Park. They’re only 28 miles away but that trip took over an hour. To be fair, the 10 miles within the Park took up half of the journey time.
Also to be fair, I wasn’t bothered by tourists or even locals blocking the road and slowing me down. It was just the road. It was a road that was designed for use by driven sheep, people riding ponies and the occasional cart. At some point they gave it a coat of tarmac and you never know, they might one day repeat the experience.
One problem the Lake District faces is that it has an infrastructure that would be a bit old and creaking for the forty thousand people who live within the park. But when faced with the twenty million visitors a year the park now gets, it’s totally inadequate.
The photo shows the road over the Hardknott pass, looking west.
As an aside, there is very little public transport within the Park, which means the locals, along with everybody else, are forced into their cars. But for much of the area public transport in the form of a bus service probably isn’t the answer.
Take Coniston as an example. Even if it was the centre of a decent bus service, there is the problem that there are parts of the road where the bus struggles to
get past a lorry, a biggish van, or in some cases even the tourist in a Chelsea tractor!
Can you imagine trying to keep to timetable on a Broughton to Coniston bus? Sections of A593 are virtually single track with tall stone walls on both sides.
But the infrastructure problem runs deeper than that. The X112 bus, which runs from Barrow to Coniston through Ulverston, has enough problems on the A590, never mind on the Coniston road. At irregular intervals somebody puts traffic light up in Ulverston near the Booths roundabout and suddenly Ulverston becomes a car park. On Monday I drove to meet a friend in Grizedale and the traffic into Ulverston from the Kendal side was backed up almost to Arrad Foot. That’s about two miles.
On Tuesday I took the ‘Ulverston avoiding route’ to get to Coniston, I went
via Broughton. It’s not too bad if you want to get to Coniston or even
Ambleside, but a bit of a beggar if you want to go to Lancaster.
But back to the X112, there have been times when they’ve just had to abandon their timetable, and with it any attempt to cover the complete route. So really the problem lies with Cumbrian infrastructure not just Park infrastructure. To an extent the Park is part of that problem. Various environmental and countryside lobby groups put up a bitter fight to stop improvements of the A66 and the A590. These are the two arterial routes which allow people in the West of Cumbria to get to enjoy such frivolities as hospital services and the motorway.
But we then have another problem, even if you fix the roads, where on
earth are people going to park? Finding parking in Coniston or any other of
the small tourist towns can be a nightmare, they’re full.
Just to add to the pressure, visitor numbers seem to have been growing faster than anticipated, we weren’t supposed to have 20 million visitors until about 2025. At the current rate of growth we’ll pass the thirty million visitors mark in less than a decade.
Anyway it looks that if you’ve got a journey through Cumbria to contemplate, you’d be wise to take a good book with you.
Coincidentally, I’ve just published one
Tallis Steelyard: Six men in a boat
Instead of his usual collection of anecdotes, this time Tallis presents us with a gripping adventure. Why is Tallis ‘run out of town’ by hired ruffians? Why does a very sensible young woman want his company when plunging into unknown danger? Who or what was buried in the catacombs? And why has there been so much interest in making sure they stay dead? Also featuring flower arranging, life on the river, and a mule of notable erudition.